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Cleaner Ways To Clear Snow

Another January day in New England. Another several inches of snow. Faced with choosing between fume-spewing snowblowers and back-breaking green options (shoveling or letting the ice accumulate) I have just one question: Where are the snow-clearing robots?
Another January day in New England. Another several inches of snow. Faced with choosing between fume-spewing snowblowers and back-breaking green options (shoveling or letting the ice accumulate) I have just one question: Where are the snow-clearing robots?The most promising device I've seen may be the i-Shovel. It is automatic and emissions-free and its rechargeable batteries can be solar-powered. Unlike anyone I have ever met (including myself), the i-Shovel has the super-human ability to wake itself up and start shoveling when it detects an inch of snow. Compared with snow throwers and snowblowers, it's a giant leap forward, its makers say:


Snow throwers throw up snow about 6 - 10 feet up, wasting lot of energy. I-Shovel efficiently pushes snow when it's still fresh and light in relatively short cycles. The computer algorithm controlling the robot closely mimics the shoveling process a human usually does with a manual shovel.

Availability: unknown. The company is looking for partnerships. A Japanese invention, the Yuki-taro snow-munching machine is the result of nearly seven years of work by researchers "who set out to design an environmentally-friendly robot that can operate by itself and support the elderly." (Not to mention the too-busy-infirm-lazy-to-shovel.) No word on what powers the Yuki-taro. But the green lining is that it "eats up snow and poops ice blocks" which can be stored and used for refrigeration or cooling in warmer temps. Availability: unknown. At least three years away.

The greenest snow-clearing device I have found that isn't a shovel isn't a robot either. It's called the Wovel and it is commercially available: It's a snow mover with an 18th-century profile and a 21st-century environmental sensibility. My brother, who uses it to clear his 120-foot driveway, says "While the snow throwers down the road whine and spew fumes, I can feel a little smug about my eco-peaceful, back-friendly workout. It's Woverly."

The Wovel in action:

The i-Shovel in action:

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer